How To Become Less Busy And More Productive

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As human beings living our hectic lifestyles, we are all “busy”. I get it. We all have activities and deadlines that need to be met. We all have stuff that needs to be taken care of.

But there are some people who I come across that seem to be “busy” all the time.

drowningFor example, how many times have you heard the following phrases?

I’m so busy all the time that I’m just barely keeping my head above water

I’m so busy all the time because I’m getting buried with work

I’m so busy all the time because I’m constantly putting out fires and not at my desk

Now I’m not trying to detract from anyone’s workload but when I hear these phrases constantly uttered from the same people over and over again, I often marvel at how these people are able to stay sane.

For example, I have this one acquaintance of mine who is always complaining that he is “swamped” with work and never has any free time to work on his own stuff or his online businesses.

But get this. This guy is single, doesn’t have a girlfriend, doesn’t have any kids and basically has no responsibilities whatsoever. He works a day job at a medium sized company that is fairly well established. How the heck could he not have time to do anything?

To this day, I have never been able to figure it out.

Should You Be Busier?

But here’s the funny thing. After every conversation I have with “busy” people, I’m always left second guessing myself as to whether I’m fully utilizing my time to its full potential.

Whenever I hear about how “swamped” someone is, I usually start feeling a bit guilty. Am I not falling behind? Am I not as busy because I’m lazy? Should I be working more hours?

The truth is that these days, I rarely feel “slammed” with work. Even though I have a two kids, a full time job, an online store, a blog and an online course, I still find myself with quite a bit of leisure time.

There are times when I do feel overwhelmed with work to do, but it rarely lasts for more than a few days and then everything goes back to normal again. So when people ask me what I’ve been up to lately, I usually reply “Nothing much. Things are pretty chill”.

So I for one am curious. Why do certain people constantly feel overwhelmed with their workloads? Why do certain people never have any free time? I know that I would go crazy if I was constantly “buried with work”.

How Efficient Are You Really?

In fact, I can’t help but feel as though the people who are “always busy” aren’t using their time very efficiently.

For every story that I hear about someone spending 18 hours at the office or working 100 hour weeks, I can’t help but think that very little real work is accomplished during that time.

Why? It’s because I for one can not maintain absolute focus for more than a couple of hours at a time. If I had to work 18 hours straight, I would bet that only 6 hours max would result in actual productive work.

If you look at your day to day. How much of what you actually do feels like a real accomplishment?

Does Your Day Feel Like A Blur?

There are some days when I feel like every minute of my day is completely packed. But then when I look back, I realize that I’ve actually accomplished very little.

Does this ever happen to you? The reality is that it’s very easy to fill your schedule with activities and tasks that keep you busy but how important are they in the grand scheme of things? Is what you are doing everyday having an impact on where you want to be in the future?

I used to feel like I was busy all the time until I had my first child. And it was only then that I started to realize how inefficiently I was spending my time.

And then when my second child was born, I knew I needed to change. Otherwise, every single day would simply pass by and I’d never be able to get anything done.

The truth is that it’s very easy to fill up every hour of your day with stuff to do but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should do so. You need to have a plan and a clear set of priorities.

Be Productive Not Busy

In order to be less busy, you need to be smarter with how you spend your time. Here are a few things that I started doing post-kids to maintain an efficient schedule.

  • Prioritize Everything – I assign a priority to practically everything that I need to do. Things that absolutely need to get done rise to the top of my task list whereas activities that are less important fall to the bottom. Also, I say no to stuff all the time.

    What are my priorities based on? If something is fun and family/friends oriented, it usually comes first. Otherwise, I tend to prioritize activities that will further my businesses or personal relationships in some tangible way. Everything else gets dropped on the floor.

  • Utilize Scarcity – I often assign specific time blocks to the tasks that I need to get accomplished. For example, to write this blog post, I set aside exactly 2 hours. And coincidentally, two hours have passed and I’m just about done.

    Personally, I’ve found that by constraining the amount of time I have to complete a task, the more likely it will get done within a certain time frame.

  • Keep A Schedule – In order to make sure that I constantly make forward progress on a project or business plan, I always set aside a specific time to work on specific tasks.

    For example, Sunday night is always devoted to writing blog posts. Thursday night is devoted to working on my online store. By keeping to a consistent schedule, I ensure consistent progress on all of my businesses

However outside of my scheduled activities, all the rest of my time is devoted to leisure time with family.

Reassess How Busy You Really Are

When it comes to be being busy, you need to be honest with yourself. After all, being busy is not some sort of badge of honor. It’s not an indicator of success either.

And please don’t ever use “being busy” as an excuse not to do something that will impact your life for the better. If you have the desire to start your own online business, then make it a priority.

Add it to your schedule and set aside a small block of time every week to work on it. If you are doing things correctly, you should never feel busy but productive.

photo credit: Gibson Claire McGuire Regester

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16 thoughts on “How To Become Less Busy And More Productive”

  1. Simi says:

    Great article with relevant points! It’s why I don’t overschedule my kids with too many activities because it means I’m over scheduled! I also like your point about constraining time. It works!

    1. Thanks Simi. It’s tough with kids isn’t it? On one hand, you want them to experience a lot of different activities. But on the other hand, you start becoming a full time chauffeur.

  2. Swetha says:

    I used to be one of those forever “swamped” people. If I was not doing something every second of the day, I felt restless and discontent. But since having kids and having gone through a personal loss, now I ask myself all the questions you mentioned above. I can identify so much with your article. Thanks for the lovely post!!!

    1. Thanks Swetha. I used to be the same way and hated downtime. Now I’ve come to appreciate it:)

  3. Great article Steve! Time management is an area where I can improve. Read an interesting little book once that I think was called the tyranny of the urgent that addressed some of the same things

    1. Hey Tim,

      I’ll have to go check the book out. Got a 6 hour flight tomorrow.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Great post! I have set a side 2 hours every night after my kids go to bed to work on my online store – learning a ton from your course!

    1. Thanks Jennifer,
      It’s been a pleasure having you in the class:)

  5. I have found that for my business, I outsource as much as I can. I no longer do the administrative work such as answer my business emails, managing the data or making changes to the website. Instead I focus on what others cannot do such as the marketing. Not that managing staff is a breeze but between the team we are getting more work done than when I was trying to do everything.

  6. I completely agree with your points. When I was still working in the corporate world, I used to systematically work 70hrs+ per week. I felt swamped all the time.
    In hindsight, I realize that I was far from efficient with my time.
    These days things are different: I care for 2 year old twins, I run an offline business, and I’ve recently started an online business. And I rarely feel overwhelmed.
    I follow the exact process you described:
    – Extreme prioritization: I follow the 80/20 principle when it come to prioritization (20% of our activities contribute to 80% of our outcomes). So I only do the tasks that actually contribute to the outcomes I’m after. Everything else doesn’t make it to my to-do list.
    – Time blocking: like you, I assign a specific time slot to each task. I follow Parkinson’s law (a task takes as much time as what you assign to it), and allot 20% less time to the task than what I think I’ll need. I always manage to finish the task in the allotted time.
    – Schedule: like you, I follow a schedule. And I also take a ‘zero-distractions’ approach: I switch off everything (email, social media, phone, etc), and focus 100% on the task at hand. Once it’s done, I take a break.

    It took me a little while to really get the hang of this approach, but now I’m reaping the benefits :)

  7. toolika says:

    Very practical and nice blog.I have seen many blogs and videos but I find your blog the most down to earth.

    Hope to open my online business soon.Wish me luck:)

    And also I would like to know if it is possible to get any assistance from you in technical terms if needed?

  8. Good points! My eyes opened up to this after reading the 4 Hour Work Week. Who says every job needs to take up 40 hours per week? Not at all. I’m running my online business, have a part-time corporate job, 4 kids and have plenty of leisure time. You have to work SMART!

  9. Not being productive enough always leaves you with a lot of wasted time and a huge list of ‘to-do’ things. I noticed that, once I put my tasks in a list and stopped procrastinating, even the big ‘jobs’ didn’t take as long as I had anticipated. Good planning and FOCUS when working can clear out a lot of time and help you get things done.

  10. I’m always looking for ways to improve my productivity….thanks for the article.

  11. Eduardo says:

    What a great article. I totally agree with you that once you make a schedule of your activities and prioritize what is important you find yourself productive and are never the “Am too busy guy”. You will always get everything done in the right manner and on time.

  12. Very nice blog On Increasing Productivity. This Types Of Blog we Need to improve productivity.

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